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Hundreds of people affected after torrential rain and flooding in French Polynesia

Tuesday 12 December 2023 | Written by RNZ | Published in French Polynesia, Regional, Tahiti

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Hundreds of people affected after torrential rain and flooding in French Polynesia
French Polynesia’s main island of Tahiti was mopping up at the weekend following several days of torrential rains which have triggered mass flooding late last week, causing over 260 houses to be affected, including two taken away and two bridges to have collapsed. Photo: Patrick DeCloitre/23121114

French Polynesia's main island of Tahiti has been mopping up at the weekend following several days of torrential rains which triggered mass flooding late last week.

It caused over 260 houses to be affected, including two taken away and two bridges to have collapsed.

Many rivers have since left their banks and submerged neighbouring villages.

The mainly affected areas are located on the main island of Tahiti, but also on neighbouring Moorea as well as Bora-Bora and Maupiti.

In those areas, since the end of last week, schools have remained closed for safety reasons.

French Polynesia's President Moetai Brotherson said a state of natural disaster would be declared this week.

In some affected areas, French civil security had to rescue residents by helicopter.

In other cases, people had to be evacuated across flooded rivers with stretchers attached to a rope.

However, a majority of residents refused to be evacuated.

One of the affected villages, Teahupoo, is also famous for being the host of the 2024 Paris Olympic Games surfing.

Even though torrential rains have now ceased, authorities have warned the population in the Society Islands archipelago to remain vigilant regarding the ongoing risk of post-flooding infectious diseases.

These include leptospirosis and mosquito-borne illnesses such as dengue fever.

The French High Commission, which has activated its emergency centre, has also strongly warned residents in the affected areas should refrain from moving out of their homes and to stay away from swollen rivers with strong currents.

People found to be swimming in affected rivers will be liable to a fine of €150 (about US$160).

- Patrick Decloitre/RNZ